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US: Jordan’s King Abdullah ‘has our full support’; kingdom denies coup plot

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and PA also express backing for Jordan monarch as wave of officials arrested for ‘security reasons’ and former crown prince given warning

King Abdullah II of Jordan, right, meets with US Vice President Joe Biden, at the Husseiniya Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 10, 2016. (AP/Raad Adayleh)
King Abdullah II of Jordan, right, meets with then US Vice President Joe Biden, at the Husseiniya Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 10, 2016. (AP/Raad Adayleh)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

Bennett to meet with Lapid for talks on possible government

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is set to meet this evening with Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid for talks on potentially forming a government following the March 23 Knesset elections.

The meeting follows Bennett’s sit-down yesterday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bennett has refrained from backing either Netanyahu or the premier’s rivals, positioning him as a potential kingmaker after his right-wing Yamina party picked up seven seats in the elections.

Israeli judoka wins gold medal at grand slam tourney in Turkey

Israeli judoka Raz Hershko wins the gold medal in the 78 kilogram and under category at the Antalya Grand Slam in Turkey.

Egypt parades royal mummies in show of Pharaonic heritage

CAIRO — Egypt is launching a gala parade celebrating the transport of 22 of its prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place in a massive new museum.

The ceremony, designed to showcase the country’s rich heritage, snakes along the Nile corniche from the Egyptian Museum overlooking Tahrir Square, to the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization at the edge of the city.

The mummies are being transported in climate-controlled cases loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic design for the hour-long journey from their previous home in the older, Egyptian Museum. The ceremony kicks off with a 21-gun salute and will be accompanied by lights and music.

Most of the mummies belong to the ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 BCE to 1075 BCE, according to the ministry of antiquities.

They include Ramses II, one of the country’s most famous pharaohs, and Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only woman Pharaoh who ruled as a man — by affixing a false beard to overcome tradition that required women to play only secondary roles in the royal hierarchy.

The mummies — 18 pharaohs and four other royals — were originally buried around 3,000 years ago in tombs in the Valley of Kings and the nearby Deir el-Bahri site. Both areas are near the southern city of Luxor. They were first excavated in the 19th century.

Ra’am said not expected to back any PM candidate

No decision was reached on who to recommend form the next government during a meeting today of Ra’am party leaders, according to Channel 13 news.

Mohammad Magadli, a radio host, forecasts during a panel on Channel 12 that neither the Islamist Ra’am nor the predominantly Arab Joint List will recommend a candidate for prime minister.

Most Israelis don’t think new government will be formed — poll

A majority of Israelis do not believe a government will be formed following last month’s general elections, according to a television poll.

Asked if they think a government will be formed, 53 percent of respondents to the Channel 12 news survey say no, while 37% say yes.

With this, 46% say the most likely outcome is a fifth round of elections in slightly over 2 years, 27% believe Likud party leader Netanyahu will form a new government and 16% think the “change bloc” of parties opposed to the premier will put together a coalition. The remaining 11% don’t know.

A plurality of respondents — 44% — say Netanyahu has the best chance to form a government, followed by Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid with 17% and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett with 13%. The rest of the respondents said someone else, no one or that they didn’t know.

The survey was conducted by pollster Manu Geva. The network didn’t say how many respondents were included in the poll or what the margin of error is.

Retired judge predicts Netanyahu graft trial will last at least 3 years

Retired judge Carmi Mosek predicts Prime Minister Netanyahu’s corruption trial will last at three years.

“It will be a minimum of three years. I simply did the arithmeatic. There are 300 witnesses. From my experience, even if only 50 of the witnesses were important” it would take that long, he tells Channel 13 news.

Mosek adds: “What’s more, this trial has begun unlike other trials: There is no effort to deal [efficiently] with the critical issues between the defense and the prosecution. Neither the defense nor the prosecution is prepared to dispense with a single one of their witnesses. In my opinion, they won’t reach any agreements on [non-central] issues [in dispute].”

Asked if there is any prospect of a plea bargain, Mosek says he doesn’t know, stressing it’s premature to say.

Mosek is a former head of the Jerusalem District Court, where Netanyahu’s trial is taking place.

Bennett said leaning toward backing Netanyahu, but may not recommend he be PM

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is leaning toward backing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts to form the next government, but has not made a final decision on who to support as premier, sources in his right-wing party tell the Kan public broadcaster.

However, the broadcaster says Bennett may not recommend that Netanyahu form a government, positioning him to potentially be tasked with assembling a coalition if the premier is charged with doing so but fails.

The report comes ahead of Bennett’s scheduled meeting this evening with Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party is the largest faction in the anti-Netanyahu bloc.

According to Channel 13 news, Lapid will propose Bennett be prime minister first as part of a power-sharing deal to switch off as premier, but only if the Yamina chief publicly commits to not joining a Netanyahu-led government.

Ra’am leader indicates still no decision on who to back as PM

Two days after giving a primetime speech calling for Arab-Jewish political cooperation, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas indicated his Islamist party has not yet decided who, if anyone, to back as prime minister.

Asked directly about the matter by Channel 12 news, Abbas says, “we are awaiting developments in the coming days” on the readiness of the political establishment to accept a meaningful role for Arabs.

Abbas says the main aim of his speech was “to tackle the practice by which Arabs are excluded from the political process… Our demand is for active political involvement.”

“Naturally, there was some criticism of my speech [from within Ra’am]… legitimate criticism… no speech is perfect,” he adds.

Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas speaks during a press conference in Nazareth, April 1, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Netanyahu to hold high-level talks on ICC war crimes probe

Prime Minister Netanyahu will hold high-level talks this week on the International Criminal Court’s impending probe of alleged war crimes by Israel and Palestinian terrorists, according to Hebrew media reports.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi are expected to take part in Tuesday’s meeting, which the Walla news site says will focus on how to respond to a letter sent by the ICC.

The talks will come after the Biden administration announced yesterday that it will remove sanctions that former US president Donald Trump imposed on ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and a top aide.

Ashkenazi confirms he was updated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the move ahead of the announcement.

“I emphasized Israel’s firm position against the Court’s jurisdiction to him, and Israel’s absolute commitment to protecting its citizens and soldiers. I clarified that the PA’s active involvement in advancing the case and the investigation will harm any chance of progress whether that be at the political level or the situation on the ground. The Palestinians’ activity has a destructive impact on relations with Israel,” Ashkenazi wrote on Twitter.

Ashkenazi says Blinken updated him on upcoming Iran nuclear talks

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi says he was updated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on next week’s meeting in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, which will include indirect talks between the Islamic Republic and United States.

During their phone call yesterday. Ashkenazi says the two discussed “regional strategic issues and Iran’s perpetual and intensifying violations of its nuclear commitment as well as Iran and its proxies’ regional activities, which escalate and undermine the stability of the Middle East.”

A readout from the State Department said Blinken “discussed regional security challenges,” but not mention Iran.

Jordan’s former crown prince, others reportedly arrested over alleged coup plot

Jordan's Prince Hamzah bin Hussein (Abd Alrahman Wreikat / Wikipedia)
Jordan's Prince Hamzah bin Hussein (Abd Alrahman Wreikat / Wikipedia)

Jordan’s former crown prince and close to 20 other people have reportedly been arrested for allegedly plotting a coup against Jordanian King Abdullah II.

Quoting an unnamed Middle Eastern intelligence official, the Washington Post says Prince Hamzah bin Hussein was put under restrictions at his Amman palace as the “threat to the country’s stability” is investigated.

The royal was crown prince from 1999 to 2004, when Abdullah revoked the title and instead gave it to his son Hussein.

Jordan confirms series of arrests, doesn’t specify if ex-crown prince detained

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s state news agency says that two former senior palace officials “and others” have been arrested for “security reasons.”

The Petra report says Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, the former royal envoy to Saudi Arabia, and Basem Ibrahim Awadallah, the former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah also previously served as planning minister and finance minister.

The report doesn’t provide further details or name the others who were arrested. The Washington Post had said among those arrested was Prince Hamza bin Hussein, the former crown prince and half brother of King Abdullah II.

Jordan has long been a key Western ally and an island of stability in a turbulent region. It borders Israel, the West Bank, Syria and Iraq.

Jordan news agency denies ex-crown prince among those arrested

Jordan’s official Petra news agency denies Prince Hamza bin Hussein was arrested or placed under home detention, after the Washington Post reported he was detained over an alleged coup plot.

Jordan said to tell Israel ‘the situation is under control’

Jordan has informed Israel “the situation is under control” and there is no danger to the stability of the Hashemite kingdom amid a wave of arrests there, the Walla news site reports.

The message was relayed by Jordanian officials to their Israeli counterparts, according to the report.

Netanyahu calls for ‘stable right-wing government’ as Bennett, Lapid to meet

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu repeats his call for a “stable right-wing government” just as his right-wing rival Naftali Bennett is scheduled to sit down with Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid for talks on a possible coalition.

“The fight for the homeland and the Land of Israel isn’t over. The fight for settlement [in the West Bank] isn’t over. The fight is for our right to defend ourselves. The fight against Iran, which wants to return to the nuclear deal. In the face of these challenges and the tremendous opportunities there are before us, we now need a stable right-wing government for years, that will care for all Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu says at a Mimouna party, according to his office.

Netanyahu met yesterday with Bennett, whose Yamina party has refrained from backing either bloc after the inconclusive March 23 elections.

Gantz condemns ‘grave’ settler attack on Palestinian man

Defense Minister Benny Gantz condemns an attack by Israeli settlers on a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank earlier today.

“The incident in which masked Jews attacked a Palestinian and threw rocks at him is grave and will be investigated. Whoever throws rocks endangers lives. The security establishment will work to apprehend anyone who seeks to harm human life,” Gantz writes on Twitter.

Jordan military chief: Prince was asked to stop actions that undermine kingdom’s security, stability

The chief of staff of Jordan’s armed forces says though Prince Hamza was not detained as part of a wave of arrests, the Jordanian royal has been asked to halt “movements and activities that are used to target” the kingdom’s security and stability, according to a statement carried by the official Petra news agency.

Maj. Gen. Yousef Huneiti says the investigations are ongoing and that all measures have been lawful and followed extensive probes.

“No one is above the law,” he is quoted saying, adding, “Jordan’s security and stability take precedence over any consideration.”

Smotrich reiterates opposition to government formed with Ra’am’s backing

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich reiterates his far-right party’s opposition to joining a government formed with the backing of the Islamist Ra’am faction.

“It’s possible to argue, explain and form coalitions, but the fateful decisions will be established by Jewish parties and those that recognize the Jewish nation,” he says during a Mimouna celebration in Petah Tikva, according to the Ynet news site.

He says Ra’am lawmakers “are not legitimate partners in any government.”

Saudia Arabia says it stands with Jordan, voices support for King Abdullah II

Saudi Arabia says it stands by Jordan, after Jordanian security forces arrested a series of officials for “security reasons.”

A statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency says Riyadh fully backs the measures taken by Jordanian King Abdullah II to ensure stability and security in the Hashemite kingdom.

Bahrain also voices its support for Jordan, as do Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

Jordan has denied reports it arrested Prince Hamza, Abdullah’s half-brother and a former crown prince, over an alleged coup plot, but said he was told to halt all “activities” that threaten the country’s stability.

Lapid, Bennett begin meeting on possibly forming government

The meeting between Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett on possibly forming a government has begun.

US says Jordan’s King Abdullah ‘has our full support’

The United States issues its first official response to the wave of arrests in Jordan for “security reasons.”

“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support,” State Department spokesman Ned Price says in a statement.

Along with the arrests of senior officials, the head of Jordan’s armed forces said Abdullah’s half-brother Prince Hamza, the former crown prince, was told to stop “movements and activities” that endanger the country’s security and stability.

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